In recent weeks, while case numbers have risen, deaths have not.
Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre of Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) at the University of Oxford, and Tom Jefferson, honorary senior research fellow at CEBM, said this could be because tests are not able to distinguish between whole viruses capable of infecting people and fragments of the virus that are safe—but both give a positive test.
Out of a population of 67 million people, on Thursday there were 1,735 new confirmed UK cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, yet the data showed only 13 recorded deaths.
This is just over 0.7 percent of the number of confirmed cases.
At the height of the pandemic, for example on April 8, however, there were 5,128 new cases and 1,072 recorded deaths in the UK, over 20 percent of the number of confirmed cases.
Italy is presenting a similar picture of rising cases but low death rates, which are currently at around four deaths a day.
A likely cause for this wide gap between new cases and deaths is what Heneghan and Jefferson have dubbed the “reality problem” associated with mass testing and the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that are in widespread use to detect cases of the virus.
“One likely reason is because the test as currently used is not capable of distinguishing those who harbour live virus (infectious) from those who carry fragments of it (not infectious),” Jefferson told The Epoch Times in an email.
“So we have many ‘cases’ which are not infectious or dangerous to the health of the public,” he said.
Heneghan and Jefferson’s findings are in contrast to comments made by Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Europe regional director, who, referring to increased cases in Europe, said in a statement last month that “the risk of resurgence has never been far away.”
Kluge also said that increases in cases over the previous two months were partly due to “the relaxation of public health and social measures, where authorities have been easing some of the restrictions and people have been dropping their guard.”
‘A Bit Alarmist’
Kluge’s comments are echoed by UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said on Tuesday that we “must do everything in our power” to prevent a second wave of the CCP virus.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and oncologist at the University of Warwick, told the MailOnline on Wednesday that he thought Hancock’s comments were “a bit alarmist.”
“Of course, we need to remain alert and it is true that the number of infections across certain parts of Europe are rising as are hospitalizations. But not sure that this is really a ‘second wave rolling across Europe’,” Young said.
Less Virulent Form
Other reasons for the big discrepancy between cases and deaths were explored by Jefferson and Heneghan in an article they co-authored in the Spectator on Tuesday.
Virus mutation to a less virulent form, improved care of virus sufferers, and the preventative measures that were put in place to slow the spread of the disease may all have contributed. None, however, could fully account for the gap, they said.
Heneghan and Jefferson also observed that the demographic of cases testing positive has shifted to a younger age group.
The “very sensitive” PCR tests, they said, are picking up cases which are not infectious but “simply clearing harmless virus particles which their immune system has efficiently dealt with.”
Such people are not contagious because “only whole viruses can infect us,” they said
“Young people whose immune systems are relatively more dynamic are exactly in the age group of observed ‘positives’ and least likely to end with severe disease,” they said.
These observations again contrasted with Kluge’s, who said, “I am very concerned that more and more young people are counted among reported cases and among deaths.”
Heneghan and Jefferson suggested the need for an international effort to standardize testing “to avoid this dual reality and the dangers of isolating non-infectious people or whole communities.”